Tyler Thompson's bio on KSR says it all: "No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR." She's smart and funny and has carved out a nice niche for herself as news editor at the massively popular KentuckySportsRadio.com, a site dedicated to news on all things University of Kentucky Wildcats "in the most ridiculous manner possible."
Earlier this week I was featured on KSR telling Wildcat fans What Kentucky Fans Need To Know About West Virginia. Tyler was kind enough to return the favor in the form of a quick Q & A, no small feat given that she's traveling with the team in Cleveland. We hit Devin Williams, Devin Booker, Swaggy Cal, Snarky Huggy Bear and more.
The Smoking Muket: First off thanks for doing this. Given that the NCAA tournament committee has developed a fixation with this border battle, I get the feeling we might be seeing a lot of each other over the next few years. Do you get the sense Kentucky fans are starting to hate WVU or is there a grudging respect there?
Mrs. Tyler Thompson: I don't think there's any hate. If anything, there is some lingering resentment over the 2010 loss, but for the most part, Kentucky fans have moved on. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say that Kentucky fans respect West Virginia; they know the Mountaineers play smash 'em up ugly ball, but because of the 2010 game, Cats fans know anything can happen on any given night, even if you have John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Eric Bledsoe on your team. Honestly, when West Virginia beat Maryland, I looked forward to this matchup because of Bob Huggins. Huggy Bear brings the laughs.
TSM: I see Juwan Staten v Andrew Harrison being the only matchup that WVU could really exploit. What do you see happening there?
Mrs. TT: Staten is quick, but Andrew has shown he can stay with most guards. Between Andrew and Tyler, Andrew is slightly more turnover prone, but hasn't turned it over once the past three games. Because Andrew is so much bigger than Staten, I expect Cal will see if Andrew can use his size to get to the rim on offense, and if he struggles with the press, go to Tyler Ulis.
TSM: Related to that, do you expect Andrew to hold his own or do you think Cal may break out a heavier than normal dose of Tyler Ulis ?
Mrs. TT: Definitely, and that's not a knock on Andrew Harrison. The media likes to pit Andrew and Tyler against each other, but in games like this, having both is a major plus. Tyler's fearless and has carved up presses before, so if you're the Cats, I say bring it on. The one-two punch of Andrew and Tyler worked beautifully both times against Arkansas, so I don't see the press being a problem Thursday night.
TSM: Are there any other players on WVU's squad that give you cause for concern?
Mrs. TT: Definitely Devin Williams. Williams may only be 6'9", but he's big enough to give Kentucky problems in the post. I hear the Mountaineers are killer on the offensive glass, a crucial battle in this game. Kentucky's bigs are so much taller than him that it'll be an interesting matchup to watch, and with Williams' size, Dakari Johnson may be a good counter in the post. Regardless, because Williams is only 6'9", I imagine he'll have plenty of shots blocked.
TSM: The Arkansas press is probably the closest thing all year UK's seen to what WVU will throw at them and the Cats handled it with ease. Do you think UK will manage to beat this WVU press with the ease they did the Razorback one or do you expect more problems for the Cats?
Mrs. TT: I could see Kentucky having problems with it early on, but as they adapt to it over the course of the game, I don't expect it to be a major hindrance. Like you said, the Cats handled Arkansas' press with ease.
TSM: If I set the over / under on Kentucky turnovers at 12.5 which do you take?
Mrs. TT: Even though West Virginia is one of the best teams in getting its opponents to turn the ball over, I'm going with the under. The Cats are only averaging about 10 turnovers a game, and in the last few have been especially careful with the ball, to the point that Cal's actually encouraging them to turn it over more to get them to play a
TSM: If I set the over / under on Kentucky free throws at 32.5 which do you take?
Mrs. TT: It sounds crazy, but I'm going over. It seems like most teams' strategy is to "hack-a-Cat" in an attempt to slow down the game, and I expect West Virginia to do the same. The bad news? Kentucky's making teams pay at the line, hitting 72% of their free throws.
TSM: So which player named Devin will have a bigger impact on the game - Devin Williams or Devin Booker?
Mrs. TT: For Kentucky's sake, I hope Devin Booker. Booker's in a huge slump right now, and even though Kentucky's winning without him, he needs to heat back up for Kentucky to be at its best. Against Cincinnati, Booker was 0-5 from behind the three-point line, and at this point, you have to feel that he's due.
TSM: 5 minutes left, the fate of the world on the line, you're team is down 6 - do you want Huggins or Cal on that sideline?
Mrs. TT: Oh gosh...even though people rag on him for not being the best X's and O's coach, I'm going with Cal. After this season and last postseason, how could you not? Especially with Aaron Harrison on the roster. Cal is all about empowering his players late in games and not "overcoaching," and I think that's why his guys don't panic.
TSM: More entertaining - Snarky Press Conference Huggy Bear or Swaggy Do Conference Calls On My Treadmill Cal?
Mrs. TT: Probably Snarky Huggy Bear because during conference calls, Cal just says the same thing over and over again, which is probably why he's able to multitask on the treadmill. Or clean his car. Or eat food. Like Swaggy Cal, Snarky Huggy Bear couldn't care less about the media, so the odds are always good something interesting will slip out.
TSM: Finally give us your game prediction - general flow of the game and score.
Mrs. TT: I think the first half will be sloppy as Kentucky adapts to West Virginia's press, but as the Cats have done all season, they'll turn on the gas with about 12 minutes left. It'll be an ugly, physical game, but as long as the Cats hit their free throws, they'll be fine. UK by 15.
TSM: Thanks Tyler, safe travels and enjoy the game!